Mary Ann in Autumn: A Tales of the City Novel Paperback – Oct 4 2011
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“Tenderhearted and frolicsome...A tale of long-lost friends and unrealized dreams, of fear and regret, of penance and redemptionand of the unshakable sense that this world we love, this life we live, this drama in which we all play a part, does indeed go by much too fast.” (New York Times Book Review)
“Mary Ann in Autumn is a return to form...The resulting book is a heart-warming and life-affirming tale that should please fans as well as those new to the series...[Maupin’s books] continually remind us that we are all connected.” (Chicago Sun-Times)
“Maupin cranks up the hijinks and sharpens the social commentary. . . . Fasten your seatbelts, Tales fans. It’s going to be a bumpy, but entertaining ride.” (USA Today)
“Maupin’s quirky yet engaging characters still speak to him.” (Los Angeles Times)
“Maupin’s chronicle of interconnected lives and tangled personal relations is as engaging and warmhearted as ever.” (Kirkus Reviews)
“Sure-to-please...Maupin’s edgy wit energizes the layered story lines. His keen eye for irony and human foible is balanced by an innate compassion in this examination of the life of a woman of a certain age.” (Publishers Weekly)
“This novel shows the beloved characters of Barbary Lane approaching middle age and beyond with grace and thoughtfulness. . . . The charm of the Tales has not waned. . . . A must for fans, but new readers will find it an accessible entry point.” (Library Journal)
“Even more satisfying than Michael Tolliver Lives, [Mary Ann in Autumn] is a juicy, twisty tale that’s of the moment (Facebook plays an essential role) as it takes us back to the heady days of our beloved San Francisco fantasyland.” (Modern Tonic)
“The graying of the Tales of the City cast won’t sadden readers. This affectionate novel, with its carefully unfolding story line (and perfect ending), will work its warmth and charm.” (Booklist)
“You don’t review a new installment of Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City seriesyou rejoice in it...[These] are not fictional characters but dear friends and soul mates, as permanently a part of this town’s heart as cable cars, the Folsom Street Fair, and Maupin himself...” (San Francisco magazine)
“This sassy, irreverent book explores the boundaries of the human experience which was the hallmark of Maupin’s earlier work. The main point is that Maupin has lost none of his magic and his characters remain an indelible part of our pop culture.” (The Tucson Citizen)
“[A] resilient and enjoyable series. . .” (Seattle Times)
“Fans of the [Tales of the Cities series] will be happy to climb back into the hilly city’s stories. Those new to the series will also find it easy to slip into the pace of easy charm and irreverent characters in these compassionate, unordinary lives.” (The Oregonian (Portland))
“No other work of fiction featuring major gay characters has been. . .so influential, as the Tales of the City books.” (The SunBreak.com)
“A must read for fans of the [Tales of the City] books and Armistead Maupin.” (The Seattle Gay News)
“Mary Ann slips right back into the warm, bantering world of [Armistead Maupin’s] earlier books. All his kale-eating, sustainable-gardening, Snuggie-joke-making characters are familiar, even if this is your first go-around with them.” (New York Times)
From the Back Cover
Twenty years have passed since Mary Ann Singleton left her husband and child in San Francisco to pursue her dream of a television career in New York. Now a pair of personal calamities has driven her back to the city of her youth and into the arms of her oldest friend, Michael “Mouse” Tolliver, a gardener happily ensconced with his much-younger husband.
More than three decades in the making, Armistead Maupin's legendary Tales of the City series rolls into a new age, still sassy, irreverent, and curious, and still exploring the boundaries of the human experience with insight, compassion, and mordant wit.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
Of course, the older generations above - original residents of Barbary Lane - have been joined in recent books by Shawna and Jake, as well as other characters. The younger generation have certainly enlivened the lives of the older group, as well as becoming part of the Barbary Lane Family.
In "Mary Ann in Autumn", Mary Ann has returned to San Francisco from her home in the wealthy suburb of Darien, fleeing both the demise of a bad marriage and the frightening diagnosis of uterine cancer. She had left her Barbary Lane "family" twenty years earlier, returning only for a short visit to Anna after her stroke a few years previously. Now Mary Ann has returned, seeking solace from her many friends. Maupin writes well - as usual - of the feelings of the older generation and the worries that age brings us. Ill health, death, and the uncertainty of relationships are written about in Maupin's masterful hand. This is a beautifully told story of a "family" that can't be torn apart because they have chosen to be a family. No matter the geographical distance between "family members", the long-held bonds of love hold everyone together. All families should be so lucky.
We read Mary Ann's thoughts, 'The past doesn't catch up with us.....It escapes from us. At the landing she stopped to catch her breath.' Yes, catch her breath for Mary Ann is now 57-years-old. It's been some 20 years since she left her husband and daughter for New York and what she hoped would be a stellar career on television. But now luck, mostly bad, has sent her back to the place of her youth - San Francisco. There she finds refuge in the arms and cottage of her longtime friend, Michael 'Mouse' Tolliver.
She ponders, assess her mistakes and eventually seems to be recouping some of her energy, appears to be almost her old self when she finds that she cannot escape her past.
Other characters who emerge and engage in this witty/touching story are Mary Ann's estranged daughter, Shawna, who is now a sex blogger; Michael's transgendered gardening assistant, Jake Greenleaf; the highly social DeDe Halcyon-Wilson; and the incredible Anna Madrigal, Mary Ann's former landlady who is now in her eighties and as irascible as ever.
Many thanks to Maupin for one more visit with the beloved characters only he could have created.
- Gail Cooke
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
I relate the above to explain that these books have had a fairly significant influence on my life. These characters are dear friends. And at one point I did very much empathize with series protagonist Mary Ann Singleton. Over time, we grew apart. I didn't understand all the choices she had made. Now Mary Ann and I are both a lot older than we were when we first met. After all this time, it is such a pure delight to catch up with her!
Alas, things aren't going so well on her end--on a variety of levels. Robert Frost once said, "Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in." For Mary Ann, that place is San Francisco, with Michael "Mouse" Tolliver. He and his husband Ben don't let her down. In addition to Mary Ann's crises, this novel spends significant time checking in with Michael's business partner, Jake, and Mary Ann's adopted daughter, Shawna. An extra bonus in this novel, for long-time devotees like me, is that one of the plot elements ties back to the very first Tales novel.
I read this novel in no time flat. It was a joy from start to finish! (Oh, and if I weren't blurring the lines between fact and fiction enough already, a real life acquaintance of mine makes a cameo appearance in the book! That's a first.) Armisted Maupin makes what he does look so easy, almost as if he's channeling the members of this non-traditional family. (The "logical family" as opposed to the biological family, as Anna Madrigal would say.) He imbues his tales with such humor and such heart. The stories are completely over the top, yet grounded in an emotional reality. No one does this better.
Armisted, I am so grateful that you're again telling tales of the city. I hope to visit with these friends for many years to come.
Now we travel full circle as Mary Ann once again returns to the City, this time not as a sweet young girl full of hope but as an older, sadder woman seeking solace. Mary Ann's prefect life in Darien had fallen apart. Her trophy husband had disappointed her, her support system had crumbled when she needed it most so once again Mary Ann had turned to logical family, primarily Michael (Mouse) Tolliver, much to the discomfort of his husband Ben. As Michael helps Mary Ann the pair reconnect, enabling her to seek out her (and our) old friends, DeDe and D'Or, Anna, and Shawna. As always with this series the various seemingly unrelated plot lines twist through the story until they ultimately combine into a satisfying climax.
For all of us who had wailed "NOOOOOOOO!" at Mary Ann's departure at the end of SURE OF YOU her return in this novel is most satisfying. The joy of her return though is somewhat bittersweet as more of the ongoing plot lines reach conclusions that seem all too final. Maupin has gently reminded us that no one, not even those in as enchanted a place as San Francisco, will live forever.
This series of novels relates the stories of a group of San Franciscans, all connected with one another in some manner, that began with TALES OF THE CITY. The overall story arc is quite strong so begin at the beginning and proceed in order through this series.
Please Armistead Maupin, don't stop here. Growing older with these beloved characters is a gift you cannot imagine. Highly recommended.
After walking all the way from Market and Powell, getting lost, and going up and down Russian Hill at the grand old age of 46, I found myself, winded and sweating, standing on the steps of Macondray Lane--the real life inspiration for the house that has been etched into my psyche for so long--hoping to capture a little bit of the magic of that literary world. And it's only fitting that in the opening chapter of Mary Ann in Autumn, the titular character, Mary Ann Singleton, finds herself climbing those same stairs to catch a glimpse of her former home, 28 Barbary Lane. With a wistfulness and longing, the 57 year-old stares through the locked gate of the property, similarly trying to recapture the magic that had been her past life, one she abandoned so many years ago along with her husband and adoptive daughter.
With that scene, Maupin perfectly sets the tone for Mary Ann in Autumn, a sweet and solid entry in the Tales of the City mythos that is part nostalgia (for both the readers and the character of Mary Ann), and a deceptively simple exploration of the desire for one person to discover who they truly are after pursuing who they thought they wanted to be.
Mary Ann has returned to San Francisco after some shocking revelations in her personal life, and the first person she contacts is her old friend, Mouse, now happily married to the younger Ben. From the moment Maupin brings the two together, their voices are as if they have never been apart, easily falling into the playful (and sometimes serious) banter that made them an endearing couple of friends in the original works. And here is where the novel succeeds best: the rekindling of that relationship and the literary rehabilitation of Mary Ann.
In the original Tales novel and early sequels, Mary Ann Singleton was an immensely likable young woman, a naïve transplant to San Francisco from the bastion of conservatism, Cleveland. Her journey as she discovered who she was and how she reacts to a city as free as 1970s San Francisco was funny, charming, mysterious and a little bit sad. But starting in the 4th book in the series, Babycakes, Mary Ann found herself in search of a career and she became a not-so-likable person, one who seemed willing to turn her back on family and friends. It was disheartening for me as a reader to see Mary Ann transformed such. Now, don't get me wrong...it was utterly true to life. How many times have we all had someone in our lives who is incredibly dear to us who gets caught up in the desire to be something more and becomes someone we don't like so much any more? There was nothing at fault in Maupin's writing of those later three novels. It was spot on. I simply didn't want to see a dear, wonderful friend become someone I didn't like. I wanted her to always stay Mary Ann. And that, alone, is a testament to Maupin and the character he created. I never wanted her to change.
In Mary Ann in Autumn, though, we find a character who is, again, at a turning point. As she approaches the autumn of her life, she has obviously been taking stock, looking closely at her past choices, the repercussions of some not-so-great actions. In trying to find a way forward, she is looking back at the people she has left behind, one of whom happens to be herself. And she finds that little bit of herself, again. Don't get me wrong, Maupin doesn't magically convert Mary Ann back to whom she was. He doesn't absolve her of her sins. She's older, wiser, still a bit self-absorbed, but it almost feels as if she is exhaling all the inconsequential crap that has been in her life, so that she can breathe in again. And it is exactly in her relationship to Mouse that Maupin so expertly let's us like Mary Ann again, perhaps understand her a bit more.
Maupin also adds in outsiders, those who never knew the Mary Ann we all loved, to help in this rehabilitation, namely Mouse's husband, Ben who is a bit suspicious of this woman and her effect on Michael. Through him--someone without the shared history--we get to learn this new Mary Ann. As Mouse himself says to Ben "Look, I know you think she's a drama queen, but she's had some actual drama."
Now, in any Tales novel, a reader expects some humor, a little bit of mystery and wonderful characters. Maupin is in excellent form here, capturing everything we readers have loved about Tales, but never once relying on our nostalgia for the series. His 2010 San Francisco is just as vibrant and alive as his San Francisco of the 70s and 80s. It has simply grown and changed, morphed into something different, no less charming or infections as its previous incarnation.
In the mystery department, Maupin gives us Shawna, Mary Ann's estranged, adoptive daughter, now a popular sex-blogger looking for a new direction in her life. She fixates on an old homeless woman named Leia, and stumbles onto a mystery that she must solve, a mystery that gives us readers a genuine aha! moment or two that is richly satisfying. But that's not all...Facebook figures into it all as well, giving us yet another jolt that can't be revealed in a review. Now I tend to pride myself on figuring out twists and turns, but Maupin honestly got me on these. I didn't have it figured out until it was very clear that Maupin wanted me to. Perhaps I was just naive, but I was genuinely taken by surprise by the twists.
In the character department, Mrs. Madrigal is still with us and although her role is somewhat limited, she's just as pithy as always, each of her "dears" just warming my heart, and her spirit is richly pepered throughout the novel. DeDe Halcyon makes an appearance, as does D'or. And Maupin augments the Barbary Lane family with Jake Greenleaf, an immensely appealing trans-man, Michael's Ben, and Shawna's adorable and patient boyfriend Otto. These are all welcome additions to the family, feeling as natural as the characters we've all known for year.
Now, I have read a few reviews that mention the conspicuous absence of Brian Hawkins (Mary Ann's ex-husband and father of Shawna) and those who have read Michael Tolliver Lives know that the beloved Mona is no longer with us. But I never felt their absence in this novel because Maupin has expertly woven their spirits into the work. Mona is there...a large part of her spirit embodied in Shawna...and Brian is present as well, aspects of his personality richly resonant in two of the new characters. One might even spot a younger version of Mouse or, perhaps, a successor to Mrs. Madrigal.
In the end, Mary Ann in Autumn is still a love-letter to San Francisco. It's still a wonderfully magical series that, I think, Maupin has reinvented for the new millennium. He shows us that you can indeed go home again, though that home will have changed and grown just as we have. Most importantly, he shows us that while 28 Barbary Lane may have become a single-family dwelling, its spirit is still strong. Because 28 Barbary Lane isn't so much a time or a place, some clapboard building at the top of a set of rickety stairs...28 Barbary Lane is our "logical family," the family we've created and carry with us always, no matter where we may be.
My first introduction to "Tales of the City" was back in the early 90's, when a friend, an avid reader, passed the first book onto me, suggesting I'd probably enjoy it. And enjoy it I did, promptly, through our local library, seeking out the remaining five books, all then available, in the series, suggesting to other friends that they must read the books, that they were in for a very special experience.
A regret for this fan, and probably for the author, is that, though several of the books made their ways to the screen and were wonderfully cast (imagine...Olympia Dukakis and Laura Linney!), this probably will not be the fate of the remaining books. But Armistead Maupin is such a skilled storyteller that, screen treatment aside, it all comes vividly to life through his writing.
After I had read the first six books, I sent a letter to Maupin, through the books' publisher. I was thrilled to receive the nicest of replies to my "thank you" to him; I remember stating in my letter, "I had never heard of you until my friend had introduced me through the first book." In his letter to me, he said, "Don't apologize. I didn't know who you were either until I received your letter." Over the years I've made a point, now through e-mail addresses if available, of contacting authors whose works, on completion of a book, left me feeling I'd just had the best of reading experiences. Maupin's response to my letter is a treasured one among many I've received from so many authors.
Anyhow, I'm not telling you anything more about "Mary Ann in Autumn" other than, if you've not read the previous books, start at the beginning. And if you are familiar, well, then, this latest brings so much of the gang back for a more than satisfying reading experience.